BARBOURSVILLE - After more than two years of trying to promote his idea, one man's effort has drawn local outdoor experts to Field & Stream at the Huntington Mall each Saturday through the end of August.
Joe Jarrett, 65, has spearheaded the birth of a series of appearances from some of the state's most renowned outdoor experts intended to provide skills and information to the general public and avid outdoorsmen alike.
"I had been trying for two years to get Field & Stream to open up to the idea of presenting a series of outdoor experts that know a variety of different subjects in the field of conservation, hunting, fishing camping, that sort of thing."
Jarrett, a native of Milton, said he couldn't get an answer from the corporate office but kept pushing the concept until it grabbed the attention of Field & Stream General Manager Elena Thomas.
Field & Stream has just one location in West Virginia and 35 stores nationwide, but the Huntington store is the only known location to offer such a service. The store was opened in fall 2017 and was a welcome sight for outdoor enthusiasts such as Jarrett, who said the opening of the store was a tribute to how big outdoor recreation is in the region.
"I'm proud that the Huntington Tri-State area finally got what I'd call a large fitter for hunting and outdoor supplies. We'd never had that, and for that to happen was a big deal," Jarrett said. "I want to do anything I can do from my role with the store to provide for the community."
Before the mall location was opened, the closest Field & Stream stores were in Columbus, Ohio, or Crescent Springs, Kentucky both of which are more than two hours away from Huntington. West Virginia is also home to two Cabela's stores, in Wheeling and in Charleston, which offer a similar line of products and services.
"We are the only (Field and Stream) store that I know of doing anything like this," Jarrett said. "I'm real appreciative of our management deciding to go ahead and give this a try. This is our second year, and it has grown from 14 groups last year to 20 this year."
Jarrett, a part-time employee, puts in the work to make the weekly appearances a possibility but doesn't expect anything in return.
"I'm a believer in stepping up, going the extra mile and doing things that are a little out of the ordinary. The beauty of this whole thing is that I'm not being paid to do this," Jarrett said. "I haven't been assigned it, but I asked for it."
Jarrett said he's hopeful that the idea will make its way to other stores nationwide and says it doesn't intend to rival what other stores like Cabela's do with similar events, but the goal is to complement them and keep people in the area interested in the outdoors.
It draws parallels to the annual hunting and fishing show in Charleston, except this, Jarrett said, is done on a much smaller scale and lends itself to more one-on-one discussions about specific topics.
"I think it puts Field and Stream's hat into the ring with everyone else on providing a venue where outdoorsmen can meet up with people they have read about or seen on TV or organizations they've heard about and considered joining, or maybe just learn more about a sport they might be interested in and haven't had the chance to pursue yet," Jarrett said.
It's all gone according to plan so far, too. The growth from year one to year two is enough to give Jarrett hope for the future. His efforts have been re-affirmed not only by local management but also the way the summer schedule fell into place.
Jarrett said there were as many as eight openings in the summer schedule less than three weeks ago, but within a week and half all spots were filled.
"I was a little concerned at first because 10 days ago, I had eight openings in the schedule. I knew who I had invited, but I had no idea who would or wouldn't be coming. You couldn't write the script any better, it's almost like it was supposed to happen."
Though not out of the realm of possibility, Jarrett said the series isn't likely to extend to a year-round schedule, and for good reason. Because outdoorsmen are often actively engaged during the different hunting seasons in the area, there would be a lesser draw during months that lie within those months.
"We're really just trying to fill that void in the year where they might be a little less engaged with what's going on," Jarrett said. "It's a vision I've had for a long time, and it's fun to be a part of making the whole idea come to fruition."
This year's participants include:
June 1 Forks of Robinson Hunting Club
June 8 Fish Your A#% Off with Jim Sprouse
June 15 Ducks Unlimited
June 22 Ruffed Grouse Society
June 29 Appalachian trophy TTV
July 6 New River Bronzeback Adventures
July 13 Boy Scouts of America
July 20 Appalachian Range Outdoors
July 27 WV Trappers Association
Aug. 3 InRange Outdoors
Aug. 10 Heath Miles Taxidermy
Aug. 17 WV Department of Natural Resources "Archery in Schools"
Aug. 24 Marshall University Bass Fishing
Aug. 31 Jarrett Outdoor Endeavors